SNIFFER pilot program to launch in Baltimore
April 10, 2013
- Army designs methodology for testing stationary, autonomous commercially developed chemical vapor detectors
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is aiming to help cities understand the capabilities of commercial off-the-shelf chemical vapor detectors used by mass-transit systems.
ECBC has designed a methodology for testing stationary and autonomous commercially developed chemical vapor detectors. The pilot program is supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Health Affairs Chemical Defense Program.
ECBC will use the methodology piloted on the Sensor Nodes Inform and Facilitate Fast Emergency Response chemical detection system to test detectors selected by Baltimore. The team is waiting for the city to purchase its chemical detectors. Testing is expected to begin this summer.
"After the development of the standard test methodology and the success of the SNIFFER pilot, we were requested by the CDP to test chemical detectors for the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore," said Nichole Mortin, Detection Engineering Branch team member and co-project manager for SNIFFER.
"Baltimore was selected as a pilot program for this effort, and due to the work we did to develop a sound test methodology, as well as our proximity to Baltimore, CDP requested ECBC to test the detectors selected by the city of Baltimore," she said.
The design of the pilot program was a collaborative effort from multiple ECBC teams, including the Detection Engineering Branch and Protective Factor and Toxic Chambers Branch in the Engineering Directorate, as well as the Chemical, Biological, Nuclear and Radiological Filtration Branch in the Research and Technology Directorate. The selected COTS detector is funded through the Fiscal Year 2009 Federal Emergency Management Agency Transportation Security Grant Program.
In 2010, the Transportation Security Administration and DHS OHA co-signed the Chemical Detection Performance Specifications for Mass Transit and Passenger Rail Systems. These specifications provide information to grantee cities of Transit Security Grants to make an informed decision on the types of stationary, autonomous chemical vapor detectors to purchase.
The performance specifications list target chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals to identify and to quantify at either the Acute Exposure Guideline Levels or the Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health level while operating in an environment with common interferent chemicals (e.g., paints, glues, rail dust) and varying environmental conditions. Determination of detector efficacy against these specifications thus required the development and implementation of a laboratory test and evaluation plan.
During the test plan development, DHS OHA CDP requested that ECBC use the existing SNIFFER chemical detection system, designed by Sandia National Laboratories, as a test case for piloting the test procedures. Now that the standard test methodology has been developed and piloted, the chemical vapor detectors selected by each city will be tested using this plan. The results of this test and evaluation will then inform the city on how well the detector performed, which can affect how the city's Concept of Operations Plan is written in the event of a chemical incident.
The concept for the test standard was designed so that any qualified laboratory could use this standard test methodology to test chemical detectors to determine if they meet the TSGP requirements. During this project, the ECBC team's creativity and teamwork not only generated a community standard and great final product, but also secured for them a future project with CDP that will help the local community.
"The original program was to design a standard test methodology for chemical detectors that were required to meet numerous requirements in a highly variable real world environment, meaning many different operating conditions," said Mortin. "So given these conditions, we had to decide which chemicals and environmental conditions to test against and prioritize which elements were important, all while staying within the customer's budget."
In order to meet the customer's needs within budget, Mortin and the other project manager Kerrin Dame, also a team member of the Detection Engineering Branch, had to create some innovative solutions utilizing the facilities and expertise from across the Center.
"It was a group effort that got us here," Dame said. "We worked together to use the facilities and resources of ECBC to create the type of test chamber needed and did whatever we could to reduce the amount of labor and ultimately make this an effective and cost-conscientious project."
The SNIFFER detector, in its full configuration, is larger than the space inside of a regular laboratory hood, so the group turned to the PFTCB large-scale test chambers and personnel. However, since the concept of this standard test methodology is to develop a standard that other qualified laboratories could use to perform the same testing, using ECBC's unique large-scale test chamber was not ideal. Also, the SNIFFER is a unique prototype, and the size of a typical commercial-off-the shelf chemical vapor detector would most likely be smaller than the SNIFFER. In order to most accurately pilot the standard test methodology, the team needed to get more creative.
"Leonard Buettner and others from the CBRN Filtration Branch worked hard with us to think outside of the box to address this issue," Dame said. "The test team designed an environmentally-controlled test chamber in one of ECBC's walk-in hoods, and created a chemical vapor generation system that incorporated the multiple feeds required for the CWAs, TICs, interferent chemicals, and humidified and conditioned air streams."